Most public schools offer some sort of physical education program, as per their curriculum, but very few cater to specific interests or disciplines, or even seem varied in any way. Since their introduction in the 1960s, physical education classes have either been enjoyed by anyone athletically inclined, or disliked by anyone who wasn’t.
By the time I graduated from junior high school and made it to high school, I was allowed to make a selection from three types of gym classes.
The first one was regular gym, while the second was a creative movement class (they did dances and used the Wii), while the third choice was personal fitness. I chose the last option every year offered, but I still wanted more variety.
The notion of putting martial arts into schools is not a new one, and it has a lot of support. There are numerous benefits for encouraging such a program, such as students learning a deeper sense of discipline, how to defend themselves, and how to properly conduct themselves around others. Keep in mind that martial arts come with a philosophy attached to them.
While not everyone will abide by the tenets of philosophical system, it will still get them thinking about dissenting ideologies to their own, and hopefully pique an interest in thinking differently. Martial arts also promote self-control. The argument that “learning how to fight” would only increase inter-scholastic violence is completely absurd. Aggressive tendencies are suppressed, under the tutelage of the right teachers, so violent people actually become more reserved and docile. Conversely, teaching an otherwise vulnerable student to defend him or herself can come in handy, even if it’s a grim reality school administrators don’t enjoy considering.
Granted, there are some problems that come along with integrating a martial arts program into existing curriculums. The first one is finding credible and passionate instructors willing to devote time and energy to teaching their craft. Second problem is that many schools (especially under-privilege and overlooked schools) may not be able to afford reputable instructors. And not to mention, some districts even lay off faculty, how can they hire people who have their own studios outside of the school? Thirdly, dealing with rowdy kids who don’t want to commit to learning the subtleties of the art.
I propose this is tested in schools that have the ability to undergo trial runs of a program. If successful, and if the necessary changes occur in district policies, this can yield many positive results. I believe students would appreciate a free, interesting and unconventional approach to gym class; one that promotes striving to be one’s best (outside of a team based context) and thinking differently. I would have loved to have that over boring mat ball any day.